In my last post, I referred to Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s memoir “When Breath Becomes Air.” Kalanithi died prematurely of lung cancer. He wrote this book as he was dying, which might explain the depth and perspective with which he looks at his life as a physician. Even in his dying, Dr. Kalanithi raises a number of issues about what it means to live fully as a physician.
Dr. Kalanithi writes about the first time he shared good news after a complicated delivery: “I walked out to the waiting room to inform the extended family of the happy news … I was a prophet returning from the mountaintop with news of a joyous new covenant!”
The sharing of test results, lab reports and surgery outcomes is a charged moment that most physicians know well. When the news is good, it is a joy and delight to share the elation, happiness, and relief that come.When the news is bad, it is a heavy task—your words are going to cause pain, sorrow and fear. Though it probably doesn’t feel like it in the moment, you are helping a family just as much, or more, in the way you share the hard news. But those times take more out of you.